Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has been slapped with a $610,000 fine after failing to “adequately” respond to questions about its efforts to detect and remove illegal material.

On Monday, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant revealed the fine, saying the country expects meaningful transparency and accountability from online platforms.

“Twitter/X has stated publicly that tackling child sexual exploitation is the No.1 priority for the company, but it can’t just be empty talk, we need to see words backed up with tangible action,” she said.

The move comes as the Office of the eSafety Commissioner released its second report showing some tech companies aren’t living up to their responsibilities to tackle child sexual exploitation, sexual extortion and the livestreaming of child sexual abuse.

Under new powers to compel organisations to explain what they are doing, the office sent legal notices to X, Google, TikTok, Twitch and Discord requiring the companies to answer questions about their measures.

The information received showed YouTube, TikTok and Twitch were using technology to detect child exploitation in live streams, while Discord and other Google services were not.

X did not answer the question.

The report found in the three months after Elon Musk took over Twitter in October last year, the detection of child sexual exploitation material fell from 90 per cent to 75 per cent.

The company told the eSafety office its proactive detection rate had subsequently improved in 2023.

Ms Inman Grant said the answers received highlighted serious shortfalls in dealing with the “growing problem” of online child sexual exploitation.
“We really can’t hope to have any accountability from the online industry in tackling this issue without meaningful transparency, which is what these notices are designed to surface,” she said.

“What we are talking about here are serious crimes playing out on these platforms committed by predatory adults against innocent children and the community expects every tech company to be taking meaningful action.”

Both X and Google, the office said, failed to adequately respond to some questions in the legal notice.

Google was issued a formal warning, but X’s breach was found to be more serious, with the company leaving some questions blank and others incomplete or inaccurate.

“If Twitter/X and Google can’t come up with answers … they either don’t want to answer for how it might be perceived publicly or they need better systems to scrutinise their own operations,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Both scenarios are concerning to us and suggest they are not living up to their responsibilities and the expectations of the Australian community.”

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